ATB: Play-In Game and NIT Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Welcome to the Real Dance, BluffersArkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44.  Well, we’re off to a great start so far this year.  With tonight’s convincing win over Winthrop, UAPB becomes the 64th entrant into the bracket, and those who fret about completeness (“I can’t make my picks yet!!”) are able to finally concentrate.  For a team that started the season 0-11 as it traveled all over the country taking regular beatings, a win tonight and another roadie to Jacksonville to face Duke on Friday feels like just desserts.  Allen Smith had 14/5 and Tavaris Washington contributed 8/13/5 assts as the Golden Lions broke open a close game at the half to slowly pull away in the second.  Even though it is only the PiG, this is the first win by a SWAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Southern University pulled the trick as a #15 in 1993.

Allen Smith Moves On to Play Duke (DDN/L. Powell)

Argument for the Play-In-Game.  In watching some of this game tonight in front of 8,000+ fans at the UD Arena in Dayton, while switching over to some of the more interesting NIT games tonight, we once again come back to the idea of expansion and how the NCAA might look into integrating ideas into the existing system using something that approximates logic and reason.  Obviously, the preferred scenario is no additional expansion, but it’s also the least likely.  We’re never going back to a perfectly symmetrical sixty-four team bracket now that we’re at 65, so let’s consider the next best alternative.  The Tuesday night PiG is widely mocked among bracketeers around the country, but as you can see by clicking through the link above, people in Dayton attend and enjoy the game.  We’ve said for the better part of a decade, though, that having a single game hanging out on a thread like that is weird and feels a little funny — it’s like finding a box of raisins in the paper towels section at the grocery store.  We think that the fix for this is to have four play-in games, which means 68 teams would be invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Each region would have one PiG, and all four of them would be played in the 7pm and 9pm time slots on Tuesday night, with winners moving on to the Friday games around the country.  Dayton could host two games and another great basketball city such as Salt Lake or Memphis could host the other two.  Here’s the rub, though.  Rather than making the four PiGs a situation where the worst eight teams (#16 seeds) are slotted into them, make it so that the games utilize the unyielding buzz and conversation about the bubble that dominates the entire previous weekend.  You achieve this by slotting the last eight at-large teams into these four play-in games.  This year, that would have meant the following scenario:

  • Utah State vs. Mississippi State
  • UTEP vs. Illinois
  • Minnesota vs. Arizona State
  • Florida vs. Virginia Tech

How ridiculously fun would that be to watch on Tuesday night?– no offense to tonight’s competitors, but it’s no contest!  Bubble teams, this is the chance for you to make your case against a similarly situated team — it’s win or go home.  The UAPBs and Winthrops of the world would already be in the round of 64 (aka the first round) as #16 seed auto-bids.  The winner of these four PiGs comprised solely of the eight lowest at-larges could be slotted as #12 or #13 seeds regardless of who wins.  Can someone tell us what’s wrong with this idea?

NIT/NCAA Conclusions Drawn? Maybe it’s because we’re just so fired up for Thursday, or maybe it’s because the NIT has some big names this year (UNC, UConn), but we actually watched a good bit of a few of these games this evening.  The UConn-Northeastern and Carolina-W&M games were great, but neither can match the spectacular ending to the Arizona State-Jacksonville battle.  More on those below, but people were very quick to draw negative conclusions about the Pac-10 based on top seed ASU’s loss to J’ville, and we wonder why similar deductions are not being made about the Big East?  Bubble teams South Florida and Seton Hall were beaten at home, while UConn barely survived Northeastern.  If these are teams #9-#11 in the supposedly murderous Big East, why are they not performing a little better?  Here were the more interesting NIT games tonight.

  • Jacksonville 67, Arizona State 66. One of the most amazing endings to a game you’ll see all year, as Jacksonville’s Ben Smith (26/5 assts) hit a 26-footer off glass to win the game despite the Dolphins being down by eleven points in the last four minutes of the game.
  • Connecticut 59, Northeastern 57.  UConn came back from five down in the last few minutes behind Jerome Dyson’s 18/4 to help the Big East save a little face on a night when it appeared the conference was looking at 0-3 in the NIT.
  • North Carolina 80, William & Mary 72.  Roy Williams will avoid his first-ever losing season with a win in the historic Carmichael Arena tonight over a plucky W&M squad who got 21/5/8 assts from David Schneider.  The Tribe made sixteen threes on 43 attempts, which represented over 2/3 of their shots tonight.
  • NC State 58, South Florida 57.  Dominique Jones shockingly passed on the last shot after NC State’s Richard Howell hit a layup as the shot clock expired to give the Wolfpack a one-point lead with eight seconds remaining.  Dennis Horner ended with 25/6 in a nice road win for the Pack.

All-Time Great ComebackFairfield 101, George Mason 96 (OT).  With 16:08 remaining in Fairfax tonight, George Mason had just gone up 63-36 on Fairfield in the first round of the CIT.  Over the next twenty-one minutes (including the five-minute overtime), the Stags outscored Mason by a ridiculous 65-33 margin.  The 27-point comeback to win the game represents the greatest comeback in the history of postseason basketball, and one of the top five second half comebacks of all-time.  Amazing stuff.

RTC Live.  We had our correspondent Joe Dzuback at the Rock tonight for Seton Hall hosting Texas Tech.  Here’s his recap of the game.

  • Texas Tech 87, Seton Hall 69.  The Texas Tech Red Raiders survived and advanced tonight with an 87-69 win over the Seton Hall Pirates at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, NJ. Coach Pat Knight, who has started nine different players over the course of Texas Tech’s 32-game schedule, apparently decided to go with the starting five who lost in the Big 12 quarterfinals to Kansas (80-68), and tonight those five, guards John Roberson and Nick Okorie, playing with forwards D’walyn Roberts, Darko Cohadarevic and Mike Singletary, did not disappoint.  John Roberson, a 5’9 pocket rocket who ran the Red Raider offense with help from forward Mike Singletary, ripped the Pirates for 22 points on 6-11 shooting. Mike Singletary, a 6’6 junior who at times played point forward for the Red Raiders tonight, chipped in 13 points, while Cohadarevic and Roberts added 12 apiece. In all five Red Raiders notched double figure points.  Seton Hall, the favorites in this game, seemed distracted and tired at the very start. Coming into the NIT, as with the Big East Tournament, the team found itself embroiled yet again in controversy. Robert Mitchell, a 6’6 junior wing from Brooklyn, NY, was dismissed from the team earlier this week in the aftermath of a series of intemperate remarks. Mitchell, a starter and major contributor last season whose minutes have evaporated this season, directed a series of uncomplimentary remarks at Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez after Notre Dame ended Seton Hall’s Big East Tournament run, 68-56. The Pirates may well have survived Mitchell’s unceremonious departure, but they could not overcome the loss of power forward Herb Pope, who was ejected from the game after repeatedly punching Texas Tech center Darko Cohadarevic on successive possessions. While no one, referees excepted, claimed to have seen the punches, video replay in the arena clearly showed Pope punching Texas Tech’s Serbian center at both ends of the floor. Reeling from very sudden loss of Pope, the Pirates reeled as the Red Raiders launched a 13-3 run to take the lead. The Red Raiders never looked back, cruising into the locker room at the half up 45-32. The Hall lost another five points to Texas Tech in the second half, as the long expected rally never materialized. Junior forward Jeff Robinson, a transfer from Memphis, one of three transfers who were expected to play a major role in advancing Seton Hall’s postseason prospects, led all scorers with 23 points on 10-19 shooting. “If you told me we would play this game with Herb Pope getting six minutes of playing time and Jeremy Hazell scoring six points , I’d tell you we will lose” was Coach Gonzalez’s reaction.
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7 Responses to “ATB: Play-In Game and NIT Edition”

  1. My very basketball-illiterate roommate was watching the end of the Jacksonville/Arizona State game with me. (His logic: Well, it’s within five in the last minute.) It gets to 20 seconds to go with the Sun Devils up five, and he says “Well, this one’s over…” I quickly correct him with “I’ve seen weirder things happen than this. Just watch.” Sure enough, I’m vindicated completely by one of the most ridiculous clutch shots I’ve ever seen. That was one hell of an upset, regardless of whether or not it was in the NIT or the NCAAs.

    This game brought on a question for me, though. Do you think this game justifies including lower-conference regular-season champions in the NIT, to the point that it will continue perpetually?

  2. Chops says:

    If expansion does come about, my dream scenario is a 96-team tournament with the following caveat. To qualify, a team must be at least .500 in conference play after the tournament ends. (I’d keep the automatic qualifiers for conference tournament winners and regular season champs just like the NCAA and NIT now, too.)

    That would keep the regular season fun — all the weaker high-major teams have an exact number of conference wins to shoot for, and there’s no complaining if they fall short because the rule would be so straightforward. All the best teams would have motivation at the end of the season too, as they try to be one of the top 32 that don’t have to play first-round games. Teams like Butler and Gonzaga would have the same motivation to play hard in their conference tournaments because a loss could knock them into the play-in round too.

    But that’s just a dream. It could never happen, right?

  3. rtmsf says:

    That’s a great story, Goblin. I didn’t actually consider your question previously b/c I’m unaware of anybody actually challenging the regular season champ’s inclusioon into the NIT. I feel like most people enjoy that part of it. So sure, I think it completely justifies it, but I don’t think people are necessarily trying to get rid of it so I guess I didn’t see a problem there.

  4. rtmsf says:

    Your last sentence is the key. The only reason for the NCAA to expand is to include those very teams that you’re talking about excluding. That’s where the money and interest lies. Teams like UConn, Illinois, Arizona State, UNC, etc. So even though your idea makes a lot of sense, I doubt they’d go for it.

  5. Adrian says:

    Just take Doug Gottlieb’s ideas, hahaha. I do like his idea though.

  6. rtmsf says:

    Adrian – wasn’t aware it was “his” idea, but we weren’t making any claim on originality anyway. It’s a simple idea, but one that makes sense. Maybe if enough people get behind it, the NCAA will listen?

    Ok, nevermind.

  7. I seem to recall that there was some debate about it when it originally occurred. Well, I hope this makes it permanent.

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